US 7716291 B2
A method and apparatus for a message targeting and filtering database system are provided to deliver bulk messages to demographically selected audiences of willing recipients while preserving each recipient's anonymity and control over his private personal data, accomplished by means of a radically distributed database technique in which all operations requiring unencrypted data access are distributed to individual client devices.
1. A secure messaging system comprising:
a personal record comprising a personal profile about a subject and a message filtering policy determined by the subject;
an anonymity service, the anonymity service being an intermediary between the subject and a message sponsor, the message sponsor desiring to send a message to the subject based on the personal record;
a message deposit sent to the anonymity service by the message sponsor wherein the message deposit comprises the message, a message targeting specification, and a message profile;
a database maintained by the anonymity service, the personal record being stored in the database in an encrypted state, the anonymity service having an access to the personal record only in the encrypted state;
a resident application residing on a client device under control of the subject, the resident application managing access to the personal record in an unencrypted state by use of a security element including an encrypted private key;
a quarantine memory, the quarantine memory being a secure area of system memory on the client device; and
a session agent configured to perform a database operation on the personal record in the unencrypted state in the quarantine memory,
wherein the resident application, the quarantine memory and the session agent all reside on the client device under control of the subject, and
wherein the resident application, the quarantine memory and the session agent collectively secure the personal record and the private key in an unencrypted state against access by the anonymity service.
2. The system of
a database query which compares the message profile to the message filtering policy; and
a database query which compares the personal profile to the message targeting specification.
3. The system of
a query result sent to the anonymity service from the resident application;
a message delivery sent from the anonymity service to the resident application; and
a delivery confirmation sent from the resident application to the anonymity service.
4. The system of
5. The system of
6. The system of
an anonymous proof of delivery;
an anonymous response from the subject; and
an anonymous payment record.
7. The system of
8. The system of
9. A secure messaging method comprising:
maintaining a personal record belonging to a subject in a centralized database in an encrypted form, the personal record comprising a personal profile and a message filtering policy;
distributing a database operation from the centralized database to a client device, wherein the database operation is performed on the personal record in an unencrypted form in a quarantine memory at the client device by use of a security element including an encrypted private key securely maintained by and accessible only to the subject such that the encrypted private key is inaccessible to the anonymity service, and wherein distributing the database operation from the centralized database to the client device comprises:
downloading a session agent by a resident application, the resident application being resident on the client device, the session agent comprising a software update, the personal record, and the security element including the encrypted private key, and
performing a database query by the session agent on the personal record in an unencrypted form; and
establishing an intermediary between the subject and a message sponsor for the purpose of allowing the message sponsor to send a message to the subject based on the personal profile while maintaining an anonymity of the subject.
10. The method of
11. The method of
receiving a message deposit from the message sponsor, the message deposit comprising a message, a message targeting specification, and a message profile;
negotiating permission to deliver the message to the subject;
delivering the message to the subject;
receiving a delivery confirmation from the subject; and
sending the delivery confirmation to the message sponsor while maintaining an anonymity of the subject.
12. The method of
performing a targeting database query wherein the message targeting specification is compared to the personal profile; and
performing a filtering database query wherein the message filtering policy is compared to the message profile.
13. The method of
accounting for a message charge to the message sponsor;
accounting for a message credit to the subject;
communicating the message charge to an external payment system; and
communicating the message credit to an external payment system.
14. Storage media comprising instructions that, when executed by a machine, cause the machine to:
maintain a personal record belonging to a subject in a centralized database in an encrypted form, the personal record comprising a personal profile and a message filtering policy;
distribute a database operation from the centralized database to a client device, wherein the database operation is performed on the personal record in an unencrypted form in a quarantine memory at the client device by use of a security element including an encrypted private key securely maintained by and accessible only to the subject such that the encrypted private key is inaccessible to all others, and wherein causing the machine to distribute the database operation from the centralized database to the client device comprises causing the machine to:
download a session agent by a resident application, the resident application being resident on the client device, the session agent comprising a software update, the personal record, and the security element including the encrypted private key, and
perform a database query by the session agent on the personal record in an unencrypted form; and
establish an intermediary between the subject and a message sponsor for the purpose of allowing the message sponsor to send a message to the subject based on the personal profile while maintaining an anonymity of the subject.
15. The storage media of
a device capable of sending and receiving a signal over a digital network, the client device being under a physical control of the subject.
16. The storage media of
receive a message deposit from the message sponsor, the message deposit comprising a message, a message targeting specification, and a message profile;
negotiate permission to deliver the message to the subject;
deliver the message to the subject;
receive a delivery confirmation from the subject; and
send the delivery confirmation to the message sponsor while maintaining an anonymity of the subject.
17. The storage media of
perform a targeting database query wherein the message targeting specification is compared to the personal profile; and
perform a filtering database query wherein the message filtering policy is compared to the message profile.
18. The storage media of
account for a message charge to the message sponsor;
account for a message credit to the subject;
communicate the message charge to an external payment system; and
communicate the message credit to an external payment system.
19. The system of
The present invention relates to the field of distributed databases. In particular, the present invention relates to a message targeting and filtering database system.
Internet marketing entails a central dilemma. Advertisers and fund-raisers require cost-effective bulk methods of disseminating messages. The effectiveness of bulk messaging is enhanced by the use of personal profiling information to narrow the scope of distribution to individuals deemed most likely to be receptive. Databases of such information are commonly rented and sold for use by third parties, and have accordingly become valuable financial assets. For individual subjects, these practices create issues of privacy, ownership and control over their personal information. Such concerns have been exacerbated by the explosive growth of networking technology, which accelerates the propagation of personal information via the Internet.
Bulk messaging explicitly requested by an individual subject is known as permission-based or “opt-in” messaging. Examples include “listserv” email lists allowing subjects to request notification regarding topics or events of interest, and World Wide Web (Web) sites which invite visitors to fill out forms identifying subject or product categories about which they would like to receive information. In other cases, the opt-in election may be less obvious, as when an opt-in check box is pre-checked by default, or when permission to send messages is embedded in a lengthy end-user license to which a subject must agree before using a product or service.
Unsolicited messaging methods include both legitimate (“opt-out”) and illegitimate techniques, the latter commonly known as “spam.” Unsolicited bulk messaging, while cost-effective, may have the effect of antagonizing its recipients, many of whom view it as “junk mail,” don't read it, and may object to receiving it. Those who do read a particular message may bring to it a skeptical or even hostile attitude toward the product or service offered, the sender, or the messenger.
The opt-out model places the burden of diligence on the individual subject, who is deemed to have implicitly “opted in” merely by buying something on-line, opening an account, registering a warranty, filling out a preference survey, making a charitable donation, or posting a message to a news or discussion group. The organization collecting the information is presumed entitled not only to contact the subject at will, but to share her personal information with other organizations for profit, without explicit permission. The subject typically discovers after the fact that she has unknowingly opted in to a stream of unwanted messages from a variety of sources, and moreover has no way of tracing a given message back to a particular opt-in decision, or knowing who made money from the sharing of her personal information.
Typically, opt-out bulk messaging affords the subject a periodic opportunity to remove himself from a messaging database; however, opting out is often made difficult or inconvenient. Many consumers resent the burden of effort that the current opt-out system imposes on them, and most do not persist in opting out at every opportunity, given the great number of organizations and companies that typically have access to their personal information. Moreover, “spammers” are known to use opt-out responses as corroboration that the contact information is indeed current, and can be expected to exploit official “no-spam” lists the same way, given the opportunity.
Corporate privacy policies governing the use of opt-out contact information do not have the legal force of contracts, and can be changed by the marketing organization at will. Mergers, acquisitions, and financial exigency have led corporations to repudiate the privacy assurances under which consumers volunteered information. Bankruptcy proceedings result in the sale of customer databases and other contact lists to organizations which do not consider themselves accountable for the bankrupt company's privacy assurances and which are not held accountable under current law.
The decentralized and international nature of the Internet has spawned a huge and growing market in illicit personal information without the protection of privacy rules, opt-in, opt-out or otherwise. It is a relatively easy matter for organizations, particularly unregulated offshore companies, to use the so-called “dark Internet,” including inadequately protected private computers, to bombard consumers with messages using contact information obtained surreptitiously, without fear of accountability.
What is needed is a means of (a) providing messaging access to a highly targeted audience of willing message recipients, while (b) securing each individual's privacy, selectivity, ownership, and financial participation in the use of his personal information, and (c) ensuring legal accountability when data access is mandated by a court of law. Such a system would serve not only individual interests but marketing interests as well, by reclaiming the message channel, enhancing the cost-effectiveness of targeted bulk messaging, and regaining the attention, participation and goodwill of customers, clients, consumers and contributors.
The invention is a message targeting and filtering system and method based on an extreme application of distributed database technology in which the central database service defines a uniform data format or “schema,” but is otherwise relegated to a subordinate role in which it performs only storage and clearinghouse functions that do not require unencrypted data access. All database functions requiring unencrypted data access, including modification, querying and schema migration of data records, are delegated to client-side software agents deployed on devices under the personal control of individual database subjects. The invention contemplates various methods of data security and various methods of anonymous payments for message consumption by way of machine-executable medium storage media comprising instructions executed by a machine (alternatively referred to herein as machine-accessible medium comprising content that, when accessed by a machine, causes the machine to perform recited steps), e.g. classic computer software operating to specially alter or adapt a general-purpose computer to serve a special inventive purpose.
The invention is illustrated by way of example in the figures of the accompanying drawings in which like reference numerals refer to similar elements, and in which:
In the following description, various aspects of the invention, A Method and Apparatus for a Message Targeting and Filtering Database System (MTFDBS), are described. In one embodiment MTFDBS is a radically distributed database system that provides for the delivery of bulk messages to demographically selected audiences while preserving each individual subject's anonymity and control over his own personal records. Specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough description. However, it is understood that embodiments of the invention may be practiced with only some or all of these aspects, and with or without some or all of the specific details. In some instances, well-known features have been omitted or simplified in order not to obscure the understanding of this description. It is further understood that the various aspects of the method may or may not be carried out in the order they are presented. Also, repeated usage of the phrase “in one embodiment” does not necessarily refer to the same embodiment, although it may.
Anonymity Service 130 is the intermediary that delivers targeted messages from Message Sponsor 101 to all Subject 120 willing to receive them, returning confirmations enabling Message Sponsor 101 to be billed for message deliveries and Subject 120 to be reimbursed for message consumption, all the while preserving each Subject's 120 anonymity and data privacy. MTFDBS 100 achieves this by a radical and novel decentralization of the classic client-server database model.
The two categories of clients communicate directly with Anonymity Service 130 but not with each other except indirectly through Anonymity Service's 130 intermediation. Anonymity Service 130 communicates with Subject 120 1 . . . n and Message Sponsor 101 1 . . . m via Network 102. Network 102 may be a private local-area network, a wide-area network, the Internet, or any other digital network, the transport mechanism for which may be Ethernet cable, optical fiber, infrared, wireless, or any other physical transport mechanism. Such communication means are well known in the art and will not be further discussed here except to note that the invention is not constrained to any particular type or mechanical means of communication.
Anonymity Service 130 stores Message Deposit 150 in Message Store Database 136 until delivery to all willing recipients Subject 120 1 . . . n is complete. Independently, as further described below in reference to
Personal Record 110 is created and maintained at the client node, Subject 120, and encrypted before transmittal to the central database facility, Anonymity Service 130, via a secure channel. Specific encryption techniques, digital signing and authentication methods, transport protocols, message exchange protocols (communication sequences), internal data representation, and other such adaptation details are peripheral to the invention and not described herein.
Operations requiring unencrypted access to the contents of Personal Record 110 are performed by Resident Application 121 only within a secure, isolated region of process memory, referred to herein as Quarantine Memory 123, within an individual Subject's 120 client device, such that unencrypted data cannot be copied outside Subject's 120 direct and immediate control. Thus the only place that Personal Record 110 exists in unencrypted form is on the device of the corresponding Subject 120 and then only in Quarantine Memory 123, not touching storage media or traveling across a wire, for example, where it could be accessed by someone without permission.
Anonymity Service 130 maintains Personal Records Database 133 for storage of Subject's 120 personal data. Personal Records Database 133 is a database system in the widely accepted sense of the term: that is, it provides storage for multiple data records in a common format or “schema,” and methods for the creation, modification, deletion, and querying of such records, as well as their conversion (“migration”) to a new format if and when the schema changes. Unlike other databases, however, Personal Records Database 133 is fully distributed in design and operation, depending on client-side software agents for all operations requiring unencrypted access to data, such as data record modification, query, and schema migration. In respect to Records Database 133, Anonymity Service 130 is relegated to a subordinate role involving only data-blind functions, such as storage of encrypted data records, schema maintenance, updating of client-side software agents, and distribution of data operations to client nodes.
Referring again to
In one embodiment, one of the roles of Anonymity Service 130 involves overseeing Payments 190 and Collections 191 managed by an External Payment System 103. External Payment System 103 is the mechanism used for collecting payments from Message Sponsor 101 and distributing reimbursements associated with acceptance and delivery of some messages to Subject 120. External Payment System 103 may be a conventional banking network, an on-line payment system, a customer reward or loyalty system, or any other mechanism or combination of mechanisms for transacting debits and credits over a network. The privacy and anonymity of Subject 120 are maintained throughout any payment transactions by the use of anonymous identifiers, etc.
In one embodiment, to initiate a message session, Subject 120 may log into the MTFDBS 100 system by interacting with Resident Application 121 via User Interface 201. For example, if Resident Application 121 is an email program, Subject 120 may initiate the login sequence by checking her email. Resident Application 121 contains adapter software which customizes the login sequence as required by the particular capabilities and constraints of Subject's 120 device and its operating system. The login process includes the downloading from Anonymity Service 130 of all code and data elements needed for performing operations on Personal Record 110. Resident Application 121 responds to Subject's 120 login request by sending Session Agent Download Request 140 to Anonymity Service 130.
Anonymity Service 130 authenticates Session Agent Download Request 140 by any of the various methods known to those in the art as mentioned above, and responds by sending Session Agent Download 141. Session Agent Download 141 contains an updated copy of the MTFDBS 100 message session software (Session Agent 122), an encrypted copy of Subject's 120 personal data record (Encrypted PR 209), an encrypted copy of Subject's 120 private encryption key (Encrypted Private Key 211), and a public key (Public Key 210) for encrypting return communications.
Referring still to
Session Agent 122 returns the results of the database query to Resident Application 121 in Permission Query Result 302. Resident Application 121 relays the information in Permission Query Result 302 to Anonymity Service 130 as Message Permission Query Result 161.
The message permission query illustrated in
Refer now to
In one embodiment, Session Agent 122 uses Private Key 213 to convert Encrypted Message Object 402 into Message Object 403. Message Object 403 may be an email message, a bitmap image intended for display within an interactive game session, a cellular telephone message, an Internet survey, etc. Session Agent 122 communicates with Subject 120 via User Interface 201, sending Message Output 404 and receiving Interactive Input 405. The communication is determined by the character of Resident Application 121, i.e., email, voicemail, game, etc., and by Message Object 403, and by Interactive Input 405 from Subject 120. After Session Agent 122 delivers the message, Subject 120 determines whether or not to “consume” the message, i.e., an email message delivered to a mailbox can still be deleted without being read. Message Object 403 may require interaction with Subject 120 to verify that the message has been consumed. Session Agent 122 compiles message delivery information, verification of message consumption if required, and reputation feedback on Message Sponsor 101 from Subject 120, creating Delivery Confirmation 406. Session Agent 122 transmits Delivery Confirmation 406 to Resident Application 121. Resident Application 121 relays the information to Anonymity Service 130 as Delivery Acknowledgement 171. When Subject 120 ends the client session, everything in Quarantine Memory 123 is deleted.
Accordingly, a method and apparatus for a message targeting and filtering database system are described. From the foregoing description, those skilled in the art will recognize that many other variations of the invention are possible. Some of these variations have been discussed above but others may exist. Thus, the invention is not limited by the details described. Instead, the invention can be practiced with modifications and alterations within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.